Amid what seems like a never-ending influx of “newer” and “better” products to improve the look of aging skin, a few simple truths remain—and they center on a handful of key ingredients that have long been favored by dermatologists. Here, a look at skin care’s real anti-aging heroes, and important things to bear in mind when seeking them out.
WHY YOU NEED IT: Time and time again, this powerhouse is touted by dermatologists as an effective ally in the battle against virtually every single one of the visible signs of aging, and there’s a simple reason for that: it helps the skin to regenerate at a more rapid pace. A huge win, when you take into account the fact that the process occurs about every two weeks for a 20 year old and just once every 40 days or so for a woman in her 60s.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Because topical retinol products are, at their core, a means of exfoliation, it’s important not to overdo them—and that means different things for different skin types and conditions. If you’ve never tried a retinol product, start with a mild formulation and use it no more than every other day until you can gauge your skin’s tolerance. (Some light flaking and peeling at first is typical, but decrease the frequency of your application if you notice redness or a stinging sensation.) Most importantly, be sure you’re on top of your sun protection game every day by using a broad-spectrum formulation that contains at least 7% zinc oxide.
WHY YOU NEED THEM: Like cell turnover, the topic of collagen production has long been a hot button in the world of anti-aging beauty—and, just like the former, this is a process that slows dramatically with age. Topical collagen might seem like the logical antidote, but given that the objective is helping the skin produce its own collagen, the correct course of action is an ingredient that revs up the skin’s inherent functions—and that ingredient is a peptide.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Peptides facilitate noticeable improvement in skin texture and suppleness only when used on a very regular basis. Unlike, say, a spot lightening gel that you can use until your pigmentation is faded, you need to use peptides continuously in order to keep seeing results. Fortunately, they’re gentle enough to use every day.
WHY YOU NEED IT: You already know vitamin C is an essential component of a healthy diet. Any dermatologist or esthetician you ask will agree it’s also a vital part of an effective anti-aging regimen, and not just because it helps to reverse existing sun damage, but because it helps to protect the skin against forthcoming environmental assault. (We love it because, when applied to freshly cleansed skin in the morning, it produces an immediate glow.)
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: There actually is a reason you see such a vast discrepancy in cost between drugstore vitamin C products and their more luxurious counterparts, and that is, it’s not so easy to stabilize this ingredient. Generally speaking, the most effective variation of this ingredient is L-Ascorbic Acid, and 15% tends to be the potency sweet spot. If your skin is very sensitive, however, you’d likely do best with a lipid-based form of the antioxidant, which is tolerable in concentrations of 20% or more.
WHY YOU NEED IT: For aging skin, a hydrating boost can go a long way to smooth out wrinkles and fine lines. And while there are many ingredients purported to deliver that, it makes sense that the one beauty experts continue to endorse is the one that can hold over 1000 times its own weight in water: hyaluronic acid. You can achieve the most dramatic plumping effect via “filler” injections, but if you’d prefer something less extreme, a serum will provide an immediate benefit.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: Like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid is a headliner on ingredient labels for products at a wide range of costs—and the cheaper options don’t tend to utilize it as effectively as those that carry a higher price tag. Our favorite options, like SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel, leverage microspheres to ensure effective delivery—something you can further bolster with the help of an at-home device like the JeNu Ultrasonic Infuser, which has been shown to increase the delivery and absorption of any skin care product threefold.